We are here in Martinique at last -- and have had a really busy day unpacking and setting up. We essentially bring portable laboratories and set them up in empty shells of rooms inside the ship. Oceanographers have to plan very carefully and be organized to make sure they bring everything they need for the entire expedition. Simple mistakes, like forgetting one type of tube or one set of pipettes, can sink your experimental plans. And, speaking as someone who has learned the hard way about how really, really important planning is, it makes for a bummer of a start to the expedition.
Now, with that all said, it does no good to focus on what has been forgotten, or broken, or ..... which brings me to my top 10 seagoing research expedition recommendations:
1. Plan Plan Plan Plan Plan.
2. Things will go wrong. Just try to deal and move on. (i.e., no use crying over spilled milk -- having children has really helped me out with this one).
3. Work with people you really like & can have fun with -- 24/7 for 3-4 weeks on end! This ain't an office type of situation...
4. Work with people who are really smart and can work really hard.
5. Never be late for meals.
6. If you are on a German ship, never be late for coffee -- 10am and 3pm sharp daily.
7. If you are going to sail on a German ship with almost entirely German-speaking people, learn some German (I did not, and am regretting it).
8. The captain and crew are just as important to the success of the research expedition as the scientists -- mutual respect and teamwork required!
9. Going a little mental at some point is pretty normal. But if you drive everyone around you crazy you will not get invited to come on your friends' expeditions any more -- oceanography is no business to be in without friends that invite you to cool places to do amazing science!
10. A good sense of humor goes along way to keeping you from going mental -- and can help those around you.
A big hiccup in our arrival here has been once again, striking workers. There is simply nothing open. Nothing -- no exaggeration. I have never experienced anything like this, culturally. We cannot get fuel and food for the ship and may have to do a little sailing around here to another island to stock up. My liquid nitrogen vendor is really trying to deliver -- but can't get through the picket lines. I am trying very, very hard to follow #2 from my list -- but am very much being tested in my resolve! Spilled milk, spilled milk, spilled milk...
In an unsuccessful effort to find an open shop today we did drive around town quite a bit. I will not be able to do much more than that because there is some violence and social unrest associated with the strikes... but, from the car window, it very much reminds me of Chile, except for the French signs.